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Press Release

Where Did People Move During the Pandemic and How Many Could Follow?

Cleveland Fed Researcher Stephan Whitaker presents estimates of the number of people who have migrated from high-cost, large population centers to lower-cost metros and small metros, towns and rural areas during the pandemic.

Among the findings:

  • The big “winners” from the changes in net migration include smaller metro areas near high-cost, large metro areas and regions with growing tech clusters, such as Austin, Salt Lake, and Raleigh.
  • In recent years, Buffalo, Rochester, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Cleveland had been losing people to the high-cost, large metros. During the pandemic, the net migration flows reversed to favor these same metro areas.
  • Moves from lower-cost and less-populous regions to high-cost, large metro areas declined by over 8 percent.
  • Moves from high-cost, large metro areas to midsized metro areas increased by 10 percent and moves to small metro areas and rural regions increased by 9 percent.

Whitaker finds that the big shift of net migration away from expensive, large metro areas would have to become even bigger before it could significantly impact lower-cost and less-populated regions. However, the pool of remote workers who could follow these new migration patterns is large. Attracting even a fraction of these remote workers to a region could bring more economic activity than attracting several large employers.

Read the data brief.

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.218.1892